How To: Create a Realistic Andy Warhol Style Screen Print Effect in Adobe Photoshop

One of our most popular posts of all time is “How To: Create a Pop Art Inspired Vector Self Portrait”, which guides you along the process of creating a vector self portrait from start to finish.

Since that tutorial was originally inspired by Any Warhol we thought to ourselves, “How can we make an image that actually looks like a realistic screen printed piece that Warhol might of done?” The answer resulted in this tutorial. Although there are dozens of programs and apps that might create this effect for you automatically, what fun is that? Ironically enough, Warhol was a huge fan of automation and we do understand the value in it but we always found that learning how to create effects from scratch benefitted us and our knowledge much more in the long run.

So sit back, relax, and follow along as we guide you through the process of creating a realistic Andy Warhol screen printed effect in Adobe Photoshop. Once you are done creating your piece, leave a comment below as we would love to see your work!

What You Will Be Creating


Detail Shots


Tutorial Details

Programs Used: Adobe Photoshop CS6 (or CC)

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Topics Covered: Contrast Manipulation, Brushes, Layer Grouping, Layer Blending Modes

Estimated Completion Time: 15-20 minutes

Step 1 – Setting Up Your Document

Create a new document in Adobe Photoshop CS6, and place a picture of yourself or the picture you would like to use. To do this, visit the top toolbar and select ‘File -> Place’. For this example, we created a document 2000px wide by 2000px tall. Name that layer ‘portrait’.


(Thanks to our friends at Gratisography for this image.)

Step 2 – Black & White

Our next main step is to change this image to black and white. To do so, hold the ‘Option’ key (MAC) or ‘Alt’ (PC) and click on the circle icon at the bottom of the layers panel. After clicking this icon you will be presented with many options. Go ahead and select ‘Black & White’. Feel free to name this layer ‘Black & White’ and be sure to select the ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’ option. Why? So that you’re affecting the photograph independently of the rest the image. Then click OK.


With this new ‘Black and White’ layer selected, open the ‘Properties’ panel (‘Window’ -> ‘Properties’). For this image example, select the ‘Green Filter’ preset. Generally, start with a preset that gives your image high contrast without losing important details or shape. Your Photoshop document should now look like the screenshot below.


Step 3 – Levels

With the ‘Black and White layer selected, once again hold the ‘Option’ key (MAC) or ‘Alt’ (PC) and click on the circle icon at the bottom of the layers panel. This time, select ‘Levels’ and name the layer ‘Contrast’. As before, select the ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mark’ option and click OK.

In the properties panel, edit the level values to 21, 1.2, and 225. If you are using your own image, you might want to tweak these values a bit to get your desired result. Your photoshop document should now look something like the screenshot below.


Step 4 – Adding Texture

One of the most important aspects of this effect is the screen print texture. So what we did was simply take a paper canvas texture we had and manipulated it a bit to make it look more like a screen print would. Feel free to use your own texture or download the screen print texture we used in this example.

With the ‘Contrast’ layer selected, place the texture file by visiting the top toolbar and selecting ‘File -> Place’. The name of the layer will automatically update to whatever the file name was. Leave as is or change if you would like. We recommend scaling the image slightly in order to ensure the texture is covering the entire canvas. See the screenshot below for an example.


Now hold the ‘Option’ key (MAC) or ‘Alt’ (PC) and hover between the Contrast and texture layers. You should see an icon with a black arrow and white square. When you do see that icon, go ahead and click to clip the canvas into the photograph. Lastly, change the blend mode on the texture layer from ‘Normal’ to ‘Overlay’. You do this in the ‘Layers’ panel. Now that the blending mode is set to ‘Overlay’ you should see the texture appear over your photograph like the screenshot below.


Step 5 – Coloring

Now that we have applied a great texture to our piece, it is now time to apply some color to the sections of the photoshop you wish to highlight. These might change depending on what image you are using but for this example we decided to highlight the hair, glasses, skin, shirt, eyes, eyelids, and lips.

Create a new layer group above all other layers and call it ‘Coloring’. If you do not know how to create a layer group, simply click the folder looking icon in the ‘Layers’ panel. Now create a new layer inside that group for every section you wish to highlight. In our example we simply created a new layer for the eyes, skin, lips, etc. You should now have a group called ‘Coloring’ with many empty layers inside of it.

Now for the fun part! Select the layer you wish to start with and press the ‘B’ shortcut to start using your brush tool. Simply begin coloring OVER the sections you wish to highlight. For this example we used an 80% hardness brush with various sizes. The strokes themselves don’t have to be perfect and can actually be pretty rough.

As you start coloring, the document will start to look pretty ugly and unprofessional. Don’t worry! This is exactly how it should look. After you spend some time coloring in the highlighted sections, your document should looking something like this.


Step 6 – Final Touches

Now that you have finished coloring, we must now mix the colors with the original photography. To accomplish this we need to bring the ‘Coloring’ group to the bottom of the layer stack. The fastest way to do this is to simply select the ‘Coloring’ group and hit ‘Command + Shift + [‘ (MAC) or ‘Control + Shift + [‘ (PC). Alternatively, you could drag and drop the layer group to the bottom but this could be a challenge sometimes depending on how many layers you have.

Now, select the ‘Portrait’ layer and set the blending mode to ‘Multiply’. This will allow the color to show through the image like the screenshot below.



Congratulations! At this point you are now done. If you would like, you can now apply color or an image to the background. In this example, we made the screen print texture the background as well and applied some color to it. Feel free to try different backgrounds and color combinations to achieve different results.



Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed this Graphic Design Tutorial.

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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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